Billís Nova Scotia Radio Site

The Maritimes 700 MHz P25 Trunked Mobile Radio System
 Last updated November 10, 2016

 This page is intended to be a basic introduction to the system.   It does not include details of sites, frequencies or talk groups.  For such information check the databases at ScanMaritimes, ScanPEI and RadioReference.

Due its wide scale there are many Maritimers who use or will use this system as part of their employment or volunteer service.  I myself am privileged to use it extensively during my own workday, and find it to be a marvel.   Due to this employment I am self-constrained to give you only a general descriptive outline of the system rather than any details that might be considered "less than public knowledge" or overtly assist you in listening in.    This page must be considered temporary, not so much for its scope but rather for the wording that I will be re-evaluating.
 

The three Maritimes provinces are now being served by one cooperative 700 MHz P25 trunk system.  As of the last update noted above it was in full operation in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and in the process of being implemented in New Brunswick.  The system itself is in place in New Brunswick but it will take some time yet for all services to migrate from present systems.  

For the purposes of this article I will refer to the overall system as the Maritimes Trunked Mobile Radio System (MTMRS) but more commonly it is referred to separately in each province as follows:    TMR2 in Nova Scotia, PICS2 in Prince Edward Island, and NBTMR in New Brunswick.    These separate designations result from the fact that the MTMRS is replacing different systems in each province.    In Nova Scotia, TMR2 replaced the very similar TMR (now retroactively called TMR1).   In Prince Edward Island it replaced a considerably older trunk system called PICS, as well as the RCMP conventional system.  In New Brunswick it is in the process of replacing a set of various VHF and UHF conventional systems.   In this present article I am not detailing the historical timelines or describing the older systems.

  • In Nova Scotia the system consists of 89 fixed sites (towers) plus a "Site on Wheels" available for deployment where required.   Coverage is nearly entire in terms of population, but has some geographical gaps that will be addressed over time.

  • In Prince Edward Island there are 15 fixed sites that provide 100% coverage of the province.

  • In New Brunswick there are at the time of last update approximately 90 fixed sites in operation, with a few more about to come on line.  In addition it is anticipated that when Moncton and Saint John cities join the system, other sites will be built to add to capacity in those area.   There remain large areas of rural New Brunswick, principally in the north central interior and in the northwestern area that are not served due to terrain issues and lack of population.  There is no timeline for expansion into these areas which will continue to be served by the existing conventional radio systems of agencies such as the DNR and RCMP that operate there.

As of approximately July 2016 the reliable coverage of the system was as depicted here.    Three additional sites were added in Nova Scotia shortly afterwards to enhance coverage in northern Queens County/Southern Annapolis County, Southern Pictou County, and in Richmond County.

The system is a 700 MHz P25 system capable of operating in the Phase 2 mode (TDMA) but at present operates in Phase 1.  Monitoring the system requires a Digital trunk tracking scanner capable of decoding P25 information and able to receive the 700 MHz band.  

It is licensed by Industry Canada to provide public safety communications only, with no commercial add-ons permitted.   Some commercial users are part of the system but only for purposes of liaison in the event of an emergency situation.   Examples are the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline and Michelin Tires.

The system is provided and operated by Bell under contract with the three provincial governments, with add-on contracts with other users such as municipal entities and the federal government. 

Principal planning and establishment of requirements is in the hands of provincial offices.   The first and most experienced in trunking and interoperability is the Public Safety and Field Communications office of the Nova Scotia Department of Internal Services.    In Nova Scotia this office also organized the talk group and radio ID system, that has expanded to cover the three provinces, and indeed it has provided great assistance to the other provinces in setting up their own organizations.     PSFC provides the training for the users and has handled the seeding of radios to volunteer organizations such as fire departments and search and rescue teams.  The three provinces have cooperated to ensure that there are means for interprovincial users to talk to each other.   

In terms of users, it is presently or will be used for practically all communications of the three provincial governments as well as the three provincial ambulance services and the three provincial divisions of the RCMP.   In addition it is already used by most of the fire departments in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and presumably in the future as well in New Brunswick.   Fire use may be exclusive, i.e. completely on the trunk, or is hybrid so that some communications of a department are on the trunk and other aspects remaining on traditional VHF or UHF systems.    The largest municipality in the region, Halifax, uses TMR for most aspects of its operations including police and fire plus public works and aspects of its transit system.    Fredericton is similar, and both Saint John and Moncton are expected to come on board for at least some parts of their operations.    The federal government also uses or will use the system, principally for CBSA and DFO.    DND uses it in Nova Scotia, including the Military Police.   This is not intended to be a definitive list but rather show you that the trunk system is practically all-encompassing.  

The system is to all intents and purposes one system, and it is possible for a user radio to function anywhere.   For example a vehicle compliance officer from Halifax could be, for some strange reason, in Edmundston, New Brunswick, and be able to communicate as normally.    Behind the scenes there are two zones, one for Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and another for New Brunswick.  Each of these zones has a separate central controller (computer control) or "switch",  but users do not have to manually select zones when they cross the border.     For more information on see my separate page on trunked radio.

One highly significant aspect of the trunk system and its widespread use is interoperability.  Even before the introduction of this Maritimes-wide system, the preceding Nova Scotia trunk system was a hallmark of interoperability, recognized across the continent.    Interoperability is the ability of different agencies to talk to each other when necessary and of course is of greatest importance during a crisis of some kind.    In some areas elsewhere in North America interoperability is carried out by agencies having radios that have specific channels to go to, with this implying of course that they all have radios that are in some way compatible.   In trunking systems, it means that everyone would be on the same system to start with, and can utilize common or mutual aid talk groups.     In some areas of North America there are trunk radio systems that are just as sophisticated as the one I am describing but only one or a few agencies are on it, with other agencies being on separate ones.   In these cases they must resort to conventional frequencies that they share and cannot actually use the trunk all together.     Here in the Maritimes the level of interoperability is excellent because all the public safety agencies are on the same system.   All users in Nova Scotia have several common NS talk groups in their radios.  This is true or will be true for each of the other provinces.    Above that, all radios have two common talk groups that are usable anywhere in the region, regardless of province, therefore allowing for cross-border liaison and mutual aid.    In addition all radios have a set of common simplex frequencies as described below.

The 700 MHz trunk system is supplemented by a set of conventional simplex and repeater frequencies that are in the 800 MHz band.    The licence for the trunk system was for the use of the 700 MHz portion of the spectrum, so that conventional frequencies can remain on 800 MHz.   There is no problem for modern trunk radios to also include 800 MHz conventional frequencies, and the antennas tuned for the 700 MHz band work practically as well on 800 MHz.     There are three simplex frequencies installed on every radio in the Maritimes system, designated as Simplex All 1, 2 and 3.    Agencies can also have other simplex frequencies for use within their organization and in addition there are three conventional repeater channels installed in many of the radios.  

Please keep in mind that I am at present unable to provide you with details of sites, frequencies, and talk groups due to conflicts of interest emanating from my employment.